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Armes Prydein Vawr
The Greater Prophecy of Britain

Hosts will come.
We shall possess riches
Prosperity and peace;
Generous rulers, benevolent lords;
And, after disruption, the region settled.
Fierce men, wrathful, mighty
Bold in combat, angry; powerful,
As far as Caer Weir will rout their foes.
Celebration follows devastation,
Agreement between Prydein and Dublin;
Ireland, Mon, Scotland, Cornwall
At One in their endeavour.
Britons shall have triumph,
Long since foretold;
Noble rulers, Northmen too,
Shall embark on an assault.
Myrddin tells us how
An assembly at Aber Peryddon
Will bring the High King's stewards
(They will moan of death)
To gather taxes
The Cymry will not pay.
Mary's Mabon, sovereign Word,
Unbroken by Saxon battery!
Down with Gwtheyrn's pariahs!
Foreign foes will go into exile,
No welcome anywhere, no land given -
Rivers will be strange to them everywhere!
Hengist and Horsa bought Thanet
With deceit and guile; since then
They have grown ever stronger.
Secret slayings, drunkenness, terror,
Have given them power;
Now destitution reigns
Front many deaths, and women's tears
Sow desolation on the land.
We yearn to be free of savage rulers,
Sorrowing at a world upturned;
Thanet's thieves may rule us,
Our lands laid waste -
God's word prohibiting blows -
But we pray they may retreat
Before our lands are overrun.
Mabon of Mary, unbroken
The Cymry remain -nobles, princes,
Warriors - all cry out one-voiced,
Single-hearted, of one mind.
Not from pride, but shunning disgrace,
They avoid parley - preying
To God and Dwi - send home the Saxon,
Who shamefully ravished the land.
Cymry and Saxon will meet,
Both sides struggling for supremacy,
Fierce warbands testing their strength,
While on the hills battle-cries are heard
And the clash of blades.
On Wye's banks ring out;
Banners descried through savage assault.
Food for wolves the Saxons,
Cymric lords gathering their forces,
Attacking vanguard and rear.
Saxons will kneel in blood,
Bleeding men on every side;
Many will flee through the forest
like foxes in the streets,
Banished forever from Britain's land
Driven to the sea in terror and dismay.
Caer Geri's stewards will groan,
Uttering their fear in bolt and hide,
To Aber Peryddon with ill-luck
To gather fatal taxes.
Attacking with eighteen thousand,
Only eight thousand will return
With blood-soaked shirts -
A sorry tale to tell their wives.
Cymry from the south
Contend without care their taxes.
Sharp blades cut cleanly,
Paying no doctor's fee.
Great war-bands come
As the Cymry arise and give battle.
Unavoidable death has been evoked;
Never again will the Saxons
Gather such evil taxes.
In forest, field, hill and dale
A candle will lighten the darkness.
Cynan will lead the assault,
As the Saxons, groaning, cry: 'Ah, God!'
And Cadwaladr, mighty pillar,
Gathers his stern lords,
Driving them to beds of earth
With bloody faces.
In the end, the Saxons will rush,
Furiously into Caer Wynt.
Blessed are the Cymry who invoke
The Trinity to give them freedom.
Let neither Dyfed nor Glywysing tremble:
The high king's stewards will fail,
And Saxon warriors, though savage,
Won't get drunk at our expense.
With orphaned sons, stiff and cold,
The foe will flee to Lego's banks.
The awen foretells: the day will come
When Wessex will have one mind,
One voice, a single thought.
With Angles, fleeing daily, outcast, lost,
We will rush into battle like bears,
Taking dreadful toll of the enemy.
Spear-play will be seen, much bloodshed,
Heads split open, brains scattered,
Wives widowed, steeds left riderless,
Terrible groans after the charge.
Death's messengers gather
Where corpses stand in ranks.
Vengeance for endless taxes,
Proud envoys, deceitful foes.
The Cymry must he hardened,
Trained, united, sworn
Companions in the field.
Compelled to wage war,
The Cymry will muster,
Under Dewi's banner,
Dublin's clansmen fighting at our sides.
Demanding first what the Saxon's want,
What right they have to ancient lands,
And whence they come and why.
Since Gwrtheyrn's time they have sought
To trample us under foot - no rights
Have they to do so - great wrongs
Have they done to us,
Breaking Dewi's laws.
The Cymry will be certain
To let no Saxon walk away;
We'll punish them for all they did
With death their payment now.
Paid will be all debts,
Four hundred and four years after Christ.
Great warriors, bright-haired, battle-seasoned,
Will come from Ireland to our aid;
From Lego a fleet of ships will come,
Baneful in battle, rending all before them;
From Alclud will come reckless men
To drive the Saxons out of Prydain;
From Llydaw a mighty army,
Warlike warriors who spare nut their foes.
On every side Saxons will fall,
Their day ended, their stolen lands forsworn.
Death, brought hither on warriors blades,
Will pay for the thieving courtiers.
May a hedge be their only haven,
May the sea be their council,
And may blood be their companion.
Cynan and Cadwaladr, leaders of the war-band,
Will be praised forever, grace be theirs;
Powerful lords prudent in council,
Crushing the Saxons in the sight of God.
Two generous men, gives of land and cattle,
Two mighty heroes, bulwarks of Prydain,
Bears undaunted by force of battle.
Seers foretell the Saxons will depart.
From Manaw to Llydaw our lands will stretch;
From Dyfew to Thanet, will be ours;
From Gwawl to Gweryd, right to the sea
Our sway over Yrechwydd.
The Saxons won't return:
The Irish will rejoin their comrades,
The Cymry will rise a mighty force,
Ale-filled war-bands and soldiers in swarms,
God's kings who protected their flocks,
Wessex men in every ship,
Cynan bonding with Isis comrades.
Soon every man will shout for joy,
That the Saxons are gone -
Only corpses facing the heroes
As far as Sandwich.
Driving out the foreigners,
One after another to the sea,
The Cymry will be one people
From now till doomsday,
Seeking neither druid nor bard.
None but I foretell this island's future.
Pray to the Lord who made heaven and earth:
Let Dewi be our leader,
In Caer Gelli - for God's sake:
Who dies not, hides not, nor ever fails,
Who withers never, bends not, but endures.

 


Sometimes this is attributed to Taliesin, sometimes to Myrddin/Merlin, it can't have been written before 930 CE.

It envisions a time when all Celtic nations will rise up and defeat the Saxon invaders. Not likely. I've hardlinked a number of odd names --Lydlaw is Brittany, etc.

Back to the Book of Taliesin

Armes Prydein Vawr is considered to be one of the first specifically patriotic poems in European literature, composed in the tenth century which both advocates and prophesies the creation of a confederacy to defeat the English. It has been dated to around the year 930 by Sir Ifor Williams (although David Dumville prefers a later date around 960) and according probably composed by a monk living in Gelligaer in the Rhymney valley, based on the line, Yn yr yg Gelli Kaer am Duw yssyd or in English In "adversity sanctuary can be found in Gelligaer".

In order to understand the work a bit of political background is required.

Both Hywel Dda ruler of a united Deheubarth, Gwynedd and Powys and Morgan ab Owain, king of Morgannwg followed a policy of rapprochement towards England and paid homage to its Saxon kings. They were not the first Welsh kings to do so, but it was not a policy that to everyone's taste. Armes Prydein Vawr is therefore a poem of dissent, a cry of patriotic opposition, questioning the political orthodoxy of the day, calling on the Welsh kings to abandon their subservience. The poet calls on the Brythonic kingdoms of Wales and Stathclyde to unite with their cousins in Cornwall and Brittany as well as the Scots and the Irish and the Norse of Dublin under the holy flag of Saint David and drive out the Saxons once and for all from the island of Britain.

Such a wide ranging alliance might seem somewhat fanciful, but something close to this united front actually did take place. In the year 937 king Constantine III of Scotland, Eochain the Bald king of Strathclyde and Olaf the Norse king of Dublin did lead a combined force against the English king Aethelstan. Unfortunately for them the resulting Battle of Brunanburh was a comprehensive and decisive victory for Aethelstan.

(Which is why some argue that the poem should be dated after the Battle of Brunanburh as it makes more sense to see it as a reproach to the Welsh kings for their failure to support their northern cousins.)

One final point worth making is that although the poem refers to both Cynan and Cadwaladr as the symbolic leaders of this alliance, one name is conspicuous by its absence; there is no Arthur. Which rather indicates that to the Welsh of the tenth century that the name Arthur had little or no significance. (Which is rather a blow to those who believe him to be a historical figure, but there you go).


For the sake of completeness (if nothing else) here is the complete text of Armes Prydein Vawr in the original Old Welsh

Dygogan awen dygobryssyn.
maraned a meued a hed genhyn.
A phennaeth ehelaeth a ffraeth vnbyn.
A gwedy dyhed anhed ym pop mehyn.
Gwyr gwychyr yn trydar kasnar degyn.
escut yg gofut ryhyt diffyn.
Gwaethyl gwyr hyt Gaer Weir gwasgarawt allmyn.
gwnahawnt goruoled gwedy gwehyn.
A chymot Kymry a gwyr Dulyn.
Gwydyl Iwerdon Mon a Phrydyn.
Cornyw a Chludwys eu kynnwys genhyn.
Atporyon uyd Brython pan dyorfyn.
Pell dygoganher amser dybydyn.
Teyrned a bonhed eu gorescyn.
Gwyr Gogled yg kynted yn eu kylchyn.
ymperued eu racwed y discynnyn.
Dysgogan Myrdin kyueruyd hyn.
yn Aber Perydon meiryon mechteyrn.
A chyny bei vn reith lleith a gwynyn.
o vn ewyllis bryt yd ymwrthuynnyn.
Meiryon eu tretheu dychynnullyn.
yg ketoed Kymru nat oed a telhyn.
yssyd wr dylyedawc a lefeir hyn.
(ny dyffei a talei yg keithiwet).
Mab Meir mawr a eir pryt na tharder.
rac pennaeth Saesson ac eu hoffed.
Pell bwynt kychmyn y Wrtheyrn Gwyned.
ef gyrhawt allmyn y alltuded.
nys arhaedwy neb nys dioes dayar.
ny wydynt py treiglynt ym pop aber.
pan prynassant Danet trwy fflet called.
gan Hors a Hegys oed yng eu ryssed.
eu kynnyd bu y wrthyn yn anuonhed.
gwedy rin dilein keith y myneur.
dechymyd meddawt mawr wirawt o ved.
dechymyd agen agheu llawer.
dechymyd anaeleu dagreu gwraged.
dychyfroy etgyllaeth pennaeth lletfer.
dechymyd tristit byt a ryher.
Pan uyd kechmyn Danet an teyrned.
Gwrthottit trindawt dyrnawt a bwyller.
y dilein gwlat Vrython a Saesson yn anhed.
poet kynt eu reges yn alltuded.
no mynet Kymry yn diffroed.
Mab Meir mawr a eir pryt nas terdyn.
Kymry rac goeir breyr ac vnbyn.
kyneircheit kyneilweit vn reith cwynnyn.
vn gor vn gyghor vn eissor ynt.
nyt oed yr mawred nas lleferynt.
namyn yr hebcor goeir nas kymodynt.
y Dduw a Dewi yd ymorchymynynt.
talet gwrthodet flet y allmyn.
gwnaent wy aneireu eisseu trefdyn.
Kymry a Saesson kyferuydyn.
y am lanymtreulaw ac ymwrthyn.
o diruawr vydinawr pan ymprofyn.
Ac am allt lafnawr a gawr a gryn.
Ac am Gwy geir kyfyrgeir y am peurllyn.
A lluman adaw agarw disgyn.
A mal bwyt balaon Saesson syrthyn.
Kymry kynyrcheit kyfun dullyn.
blaen wrth von granwynyon kyfyng oedyn.
meiryon yg werth eu geu yn eu creinhyn.
Eu bydin ygwaetlin yn eu kylchyn.
Ereill ar eu traet trwy goet kilhyn.
Trwy uwrch y dinas ffoxas ffohyn.
ryfel heb dychwel y tir Prydyn.
Attor trwy law gyghor mal mor llithryn.
Meiryon Kaer Geri difri cwynant.
rei y dyffryn a bryn nys dirwadant.
y Aber Perydon ny mat doethant.
anaelau tretheu dychynullant.
naw vgein canhwr y discynnant.
mawr watwar namyn petwar nyt atcorant.
dyhed y eu gwraged a dywedant.
eu crysseu yn llawn creu a orolchant.
Kymry kyneircheit eneit dichwant.
gwyr deheu eu tretheu a amygant.
llym llifeit llafnawr llwyr y lladant.
ny byd y vedyc mwyn or a wnaant.
bydinoed Katwaladyr kadyr y deuant.
rydrychafwynt Kymry kat a wnant.
lleith anoleith rydygyrchassant.
yg gorffen eu tretheu agheu a wdant.
ereill arosceill ryplanhassant.
oes oesseu eu tretheu nys escorant.
Yg koet ymas ym bro ym bryn.
canhwyll yn tywyll a gerd genhyn.
Kynan yn racwan ym pop discyn.
Saesson rac Brython gwae a genyn.
Katwalaldyr yn baladyr gan y unbyn.
trwy synhwyr yn llwyr yn eu dichlyn.
Pan syrthwynt eu clas dros eu herchwyn.
yg custud a chreu rud ar rud allmyn.
Yg gorffen pop agreith anreith degyn.
Seis ar hynt hyt Gaer Wynt kynt pwy kynt techyn.
gwyn eu byt wy Gymry pan adrodynt.
ryn gwarawt y trindawt or trallawt gynt.
na chrynet Dyfet na Glywyssg.
nys gwnaho molawt meiryon mechteyrn.
na chynhoryon Saesson keffyn ebryn.
nys gwnaho medut meddawt genhyn.
heb talet o dynget meint a geffyn.
O ymdifeit veibon ac ereill ryn.
trwy eiryawl Dewi a seint Prydeyn.
hyt ffrwt Ailego ffohawr allmyn.
Dysgogan awen dydaw y dyd.
pan dyffo Iwys y vn gwssyl.
Vn cor vn gyghor a Lloegyr lloscit.
yr gobeith anneiraw ar yn prydaw luyd.
A cherd ar alluro a ffo beunyd.
ny wyr kud ymda cwd a cwd vyd.
Dychyrchwynt gyfarth mal arth o vynyd.
y talu gwynyeith gwaet eu hennyd.
Atvi peleitral dyfal dillyd.
nyt arbettwy car corff y gilyd.
Atui pen gaflaw heb emennyd.
Atui gwraged gwedw a meirch gweilyd.
Atui obein vthyr rac ruthyr ketwyr.
A lliaws llaw amhar kyn gwascar lluyd.
Kennadeu agheu dycyferwyd.
pan safhwynt galaned wrth eu hennyd.
Ef dialawr y treth ar gwerth beunyd.
ar mynch gennadeu ar geu luyd.
Dygorfu Kymry trwy kyfergyr.
yn gyweir gyteir gytson gytffyd.
Dygorfu Kymry y peri kat.
a llwyth lliaws gwlat a gynnullant.
A lluman glan Dewi a drychafant.
y tywyssau Gwydyl trwy lieingant.
A gynhon Dulyn genhyn y safant.
pan dyffont yr gat nyt ymwadant.
gofynnant yr Saesson py geissyssant.
pwy meint eu dylyet or wlat a dalyant.
cw mae eu herw pan seilyassant.
cw mae eu kenedloed py vro pan doethant.
yr amser Gwrtheyrn genhyn y sathrant.
ny cheffir o wir rantir an karant.
Neu vreint an seint pyr y saghyssant.
neu reitheu Dewi pyr y torrasant.
ymgetwynt Gymry pan ymwelant.
nyt ahont allmyn or nen y safant.
hyt pan tahont seithweith gwerth digonsant.
Ac agheu diheu yg werth eu cam.
ef talhawr o anawr Garmawn garant.
y pedeir blyned ar petwar cant.
Gwyr gwychyr gwallt hiryon ergyr dofyd.
o dihol Saesson o Iwerdon dybyd.
Dybi o Lego lyghes rewyd.
rewinyawt y gat rwyccawt lluyd.
Dybi oAlchut gwyr drut diweir.
y dihol o Prydein virein luyd.
Dybi o Lydaw prydaw gyweithyd.
ketwyr y ar katueirch ny pheirch eu hennyd.
Saesson o pop partgh y gwarth ae deubyd.
ry treghis eu hoes nys dioes eluyd.
dyderpi agheu yr du gyweithyd.
clefyt a dyllid ac angweryt.
Gwedy eur ac aryant a chanhwynyd.
boet perth eu disserth ygwerth eu drycffyd.
boet mor boet agor eu kussulwyr.
boet creu boet agheu eu kyweithyd.
Kynan a Chatwaladyr kadyr yn lluyd.
Etmyccawr hyt vrawt ffawt ae deubyd.
deu vnben degyn dwys eu kussyl.
deu orsegyn Saessono pleit Dofyd.
deu hael deu gedawl gwlat warthegyd.
deu diarchar barawt vnffawt vn ffyd.
deu erchwynawc Prydein mirein luyd.
deu arth nys gwna gwarth kyfarth beunyd.
Dysgogan derwydon meint a deruyd.
o Vynaw hyt Lydaw yn eu llaw yt vyd.
o Dyuet hyt Danet wy bieiuyd.
o Wawl hyt Weryt hyt eu hebyr.
Llettawt eu pennaeth tros yr echwyd.
Attor ar gynhon Saesson ny byd.
Atchwelwynt Wydyl ar eu hennyd.
rydrychafwynt Gymry kadyr gyweithyd.
bydinoed am gwrwf a thwrwf milwyr.
A theyrned Dews rygedwys eu ffyd.
Iwis y pop llyghes tres a deruyd.
A chymot Kynan gan y gilyd.
ny alwawr gynhon yn gynifwyr.
namyn kechmyn Katwaladyr ae gyfnewitwyr.
Eil Kymro llawen llafar a uyd.
Am ynys gynwyeit heit a deruyd.
pan safhwynt galaned wrth eu hennyd.
hyt yn Aber Santwic swynedic vyd.
Allmyn ar gychwyn y alltudyd.
ol wrth ol attor ar eu hennyd.
Saesson wrth agor ar vor peunyd.
Kymry gwenerawl hyt vrawt goruyd.
Na cheisswynt lyfrawr nac agawr brydyd.
Arymes yr ynys hon namyn hyn ny byd.
Iolwn i ri a grewys nef ac eluyd.
poet tywyssawc Dewi yr kynifwyr.
yn yr yg Gelli Kaer am Duw yssyd.
ny threinc ny dieinc nyt ardispyd.
ny wyw ny wellyc ny phlyc ny chryd.


SOURCES

A History of Wales by John Davies (Allen Lane, 1993)

Armes Prydein editor Sir Ifor Williams (University of Wales Press, 1955)

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